Review: Apple iPod classic (Late 2008 120GB, Late 2009 160GB)
Pros: Apple’s only remaining hard disk-based iPod, boasting family-leading storage capacity and battery performance at reasonable pricing. Available in silver or black versions, each with full support for music, video, photo, and game playback. Adds new headphone port-based voice recording and remote control technology, as well as Genius playlist creation. Fastest iPod at transferring media from iTunes, by a substantial factor. Now the only iPod that remains compatible with older FireWire charging accessories, including expensive past speaker systems and certain car kits. A solid compromise device.
Cons: Despite large hard drives and batteries, outdated 2.5” screen and interface continue to fall behind Apple’s best devices in ease-of-use and quality of overall media playback experience, forcing users to pick between great screens or the hard disks necessary to carry lots of video around. Lacks several new features added to fourth-generation iPod nano. Remains incompatible with pre-2008 video-out accessories, including portable video displays, requiring recent and more expensive replacements. Not available in capacities as large or larger than last year’s biggest model.
As was the case last year, the 2008 iPod classic comes in a cardboard box that has more in common with the current-generation iPhone than it does the flash-based devices on the iPod family. This year’s box is just like last year’s, but white rather than black, using a foam-padded interior with a hard plastic shell to hold the classic in place. Once the shell and iPod are removed, you’ll find a white envelope with instructions, Apple stickers, and safety warnings inside, plus a sealed white paper pouch containing three white plastic accessories.
There’s a pair of iPod Earphones, a Universal Dock Adapter, and a USB-to-iPod Dock Connector cable. The Adapter is the same one that was included with last year’s 80GB model, and the USB cable is now the smaller-tipped version that debuted with the iPhone last year but didn’t make it into initial iPod classic boxes. As always, these parts enable you to listen to the iPod classic’s music, fit into any Universal Dock-equipped accessory, and charge or synchronize content from any USB 2.0 port-equipped computer.
Other than the 120GB badge on the back casing, there’s literally nothing new dimensionally about the device’s body. It still measures 4.1” tall by 2.4” wide by 0.41” deep and weighs 4.9 ounces, just as the prior 80GB model did. It retains the same 2.5-inch, 320x240 screen and Click Wheel that we’ve seen in hard disk iPods since the fifth-generation, and the Click Wheel is still made from plastic. While the silver version is virtually indistinguishable from the prior 80GB version, the black 120GB classic has adopted the same charcoal gray coloration as the third- and fourth-generation iPod nanos, which Apple still calls “black,” despite the obvious differences between this color and the jet black prior iPods, as well as first- and second-generation nanos.
Though the front of the device is made from scratch- (but not dent-) resilient anodized aluminum, iPod classic’s back continues to use a scratch-attractive polished metal, interrupted by the same top-mounted Hold switch and headphone port arrangement as before, along with a bottom-mounted Dock Connector port. Both of these ports connect the iPod classic to accessories, as discussed below.
As we’ve noted before, our feelings about the iPod classic’s physical design are mixed. While the unit packs impressive storage capacity and features into an easily pocketed device—one with a thickness that we don’t mind given its benefits—the classic looked and felt sort of stale on arrival last year and haven’t improved in any way this year. Red or other colored iPod classic models have never materialized, and the stock silver and black colors are dull by contrast with the continually evolving iPod nano family. There’s little doubt that Apple’s doing nothing to glamorize this product, as its only real improvements are under the hood, and then, not especially well touted.